Fortitude Part Twenty-six
“This evening we have accepted an invitation for the family at a concert at the Royal Pavilion. A… friend of the family sponsored our visit for your brother’s celebration,” my mother said. She dabbed her napkin in the corners of her mouth, though she’s barely touched her pastry, and gestured for a maid to take it away.
The waste incensed me.
“I am hosting Teddy right now, as you said I could during Michael’s parties; it would be rude to exclude him from a family function.” I’d use any excuse to avoid my family, but we had to be present at some functions. I tried to make the best of our obligations and coincide our appearances with meals. I’d much rather have plain eggs and toast, but the flaky pastry wasn’t bad. Teddy had worn me out, and I was starving.
I put another chocolate pastry on Teddy’s plate as well as mine. We had things to do and needed to fuel ourselves for the day.
“Bring him.” My father was buried behind the news sheets and didn’t even look at us.
Teddy and I exchanged a glance. “What time to do we need to dress, Mother?”
“I’ll have the staff press appropriate suits and have them ready after supper.”
“Thank you, Mother.”
Michael was too hungover to harass Teddy today, so we were able to make our escape without any more unpleasantness. “Are we going straight to the theater?” Teddy asked as we walked out the front gates.
“No. If we’re marked by the nobles, they may have someone watching us. I have a plan.”
“You’re good at coming up with plans.”
I linked my arm with Teddy, smiling like we had no cares in the world. “You need to stop sounding like I do everything. You have had insights that I completely missed, Teddy. Besides, I don’t think I’d care all that much about what was going to happen to me, if I hadn’t had you as a friend growing up. You make me a better person.”
Teddy’s breath hitched.
“Keep it together, okay?”
He cleared his throat. “I’m fine.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly and then smiled. “So what’s the plan?”
“We’re going to do what we always do… while our day away in dens of ill-repute and gamble away what little stipend I have.” At least for a little while. I was actually pretty good at gambling, and we might need some disposable income soon, so I would be playing for a purpose.
“Sounds like fun.”
Teddy nursed his drinks, but acted more and more tipsy as the morning wore on. Anyone drinking that early would probably be an inveterate lush, but it gave me an excuse to get us both out of the last inn before the dullards opposite me at the gambling tables realized chance had nothing to do with my wins.
A tidy sum was folded away in my wallet, and my pocket clinked with coins. Teddy heaved, and I dragged him into the shadows of an alley and out of sight of most people. The last particular inn was jammed next to another building, leaving only a narrow space that was deeply shadowed—perfect to disappear down and ensure we weren’t followed.
Still, to be cautious, we made a convoluted journey through the city until we were able to slip into the theater. The door was unlocked, and I was prepared to be confronted again, but when we called out, no one answered.
“I wonder if they already left,” Teddy said.
“Let’s check.” We made our way down the expansive interior. I kept my hand on my blade at my hip, just in case. One surprise had been more than enough, but after nearly an hour, I was assured the theater was empty. Noon had come and gone, though, and we didn’t have a lot of time.
“Yesterday I saw more of the cogs Shvesla liked to use, this time on the wall behind the stage. I think something is hidden there.” We made our way back toward the front of the building.
“Such is the hubris of man,” Teddy said as we stared at the cogs. “Do you think that’s a clue about how to use the cogs?”
“Too vague.” I used the same order of twists and turns as the box and plaque. The cogs were hard to turn, but eventually they each moved and clicked into place and then there was a soft thud. I expected the wall to move, but nothing happened. “Feel around, see if the boards are stuck.”
We began to walk away from each other, rubbing our palms across the wood boards, heading toward the dark wings at either side of the stage. “Feel anything yet?” Teddy asked.
“Are you sure this wall is suppo—” Teddy broke off with a startled shout. Something banged and then clattered.
“Teddy? Teddy!” I shouted when he didn’t reply.
I heard a groan as I rushed toward his side of the stage. I couldn’t see him!
“Careful,” he croaked. His voice was muffled.
“Where are you?”
“Down here. There’s a hole in the floor and a rotten ladder. I fell in.”
“Are you okay?” It was too dark.
“I’ll be fine.” There was pain in Teddy’s voice, even if he was trying to hide it. I rushed back to the hall and yanked a lamp off the wall. In my panic, my power surged. The light left dark spots in my vision when I tamped it down and forced the light to a tolerable level. I hurried back to the stage and the now visible hole. Why the hell hadn’t we grabbed a light before?
Our quest might not get us hurt; my own stupidity might do that. I couldn’t take such risks with Teddy’s life.
I peered down into the hole to see Teddy sprawled on his back on pile of rotted wood. “Are you sure you’re okay?”TBC
So, what do you think they'll find? *winks* Next week!! Now on to more flashing!